Greg and Sharon Kitchen had company coming over, so when their youngest son, Danny, asked for their iTunes password so he could download a cool new game, they tapped it in for him and left him alone to play while they entertained their guests in their South Gloucestershire, England, home.
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"Danny was pestering us to let him have a go on the iPad. He kept saying it was a free game so my husband put in the passcode and handed it to him," his mom told the Telegraph. "It worried me when he asked for the password but I had a look at the game it said it was free so I didn't think there would be a problem."
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On Monday morning, the mother of five woke up to 19 emails from iTunes, listing purchases adding up to 1,710 British pounds -- about $2,500 -- from the night before. By the time her credit card company called her to check up on the charges, Kitchen had figured out what had happened.
"I realized what happened and told Danny he'd better get ready for bed and run and hide before daddy got home," she told the Telegraph. "He was crying, as the rest of the children were telling him we could have bought a house with the amount he had spent."
"He started to run and through his tears he turned back and said 'But where can I hide?'," she continued. "Bless him -- that stopped me being angry but of course it's a lot of money."
The game -- "Zombies vs. Ninja" -- is free to download, but has a menu of add-on items that cost a pretty penny. According to his parents, 5-year-old Danny had invested in twelve $100 sets of 333 keys, seven $100 bundles of 333 bombs, and five $100 sets of 9,000 darts, among other things.
"Loads of parents in the playground said similar things had happened to them but for a lot less money. I can't believe he was able to spend so much money," she said. "It's the first time any of our kids have done anything like this -- and it will be the last."
Kitchen says that she thinks it's far too easy for kids to make purchases while playing games, and Apple actually agrees: Just this week, the tech giant settled a lawsuit over the use of unauthorized in-app surcharges in games and apps sold through the App Store. The deal has yet to be finalized, but Apple is planning to give eligible members of the class-action lawsuit $5 iTunes gift cards and, if a person (or, really, their kid) has spent more than $30, they may be able to get a refund.
Apple has agreed to refund the Kitchens' money, since they contacted them about the unauthorized purchases so quickly, but the company points out that parents can -- and probably should -- turn off the in-app purchase option while their kids are playing.
"All iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod touch) have built in parental controls that give parents and guardians the ability to restrict access to content, eg internet access and age rated content such as music, games, apps, TV shows, movies etc.," an Apple spokesman said in a statement. "Our parents' guide to iTunes details the steps and measures parents and guardians can take to make sure younger players have access to the right content. The first thing we recommend is not to share your password."
For what it's worth, 5-year-old Danny says that he's very sorry that he accidentally spent so much money. Still, he told the Telegraph: "It was a good game, but I will never do anything like this again. I'm banned from the iPad now, but I am still going to play games when I can, but I will be careful now."
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